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Gungrave – The Complete Set (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

August 11, 2009 by  



“If you enjoyed the two Gungrave Sony Playstation 2 video games, ‘Gungrave – The Complete Set’ is an awesome mafia-style, anime series full of violence, carnage and more!  And yes… an awesome anime based on a video game that doesn’t suck!”

 

Image courtesy of © 1996-2001 SOTSU-SUNRISE.  All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Gungrave – The Complete Set

DURATION: 26 Episodes (650 Minutes)

DVD INFORMATION: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, Japanese DTS 5.1, 16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen

COMPANY: Geneon/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: Suggested 16 & Up

Release Date: August 17, 2009

Originally created by Yasuhiro Nightow

Directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru

Series Composition and Script by Yousuke Kuroda

Storyboard by Junichi Takaoka, Mamoru Matsuo, Tetsuro Araki, Toshiyuki Tsuru, Yuzo Sato

Music by Tsuneo Imahori

Character Designs by Masanori Shino

Art Director by Hideyuki Ueno, Tomoyuki Shimizu

Mechanical Design by Masahiro Kimura

Sound Director: Yasunori Honda

Director of Photography: Hisao Shirai

Anime Production: Madhouse

Produced by Project Gungrave

Featuring the following voice talent:

Kenji Hamada and Tsutomu Isobe/Tony Oliver/Abe Lasser as Harry MacDowell

Tomokazu Seki/Ron Allen as Brandon Heat/Beyond the Grave

Iemasa Kayumi/Michael McConnohie as Big Daddy

Kikuko Inoue/Michelle Ruff as Maria Asagi

Kumi Sakuma/Kay Jensen as Mika Asagi

Motomu Kiyokawa/William Frederick as Dr. Tokioka “Dr. T”

Fumihiko Tachiki/Lex Lang as Bunji Kugashira

For Brandon Heat, death doesn’t matter.  Driven by his need for revenge, he returns from beyond the grave to cripple Millennion, the huge mafia organization that uses undead monsters as enforcers.  His ultimate goal will be to destroy Harry McDowel, the leader of the Millennion and, at one time, Brandon’s best friend…

Armed with “Ceruberus”, his twin handguns, and a coffin filled with heavy weapons on his back, he returns from teh afterlife-cloaked in darkness and smelling of death on his unholy mission of vengeance!

In 2002, PlayStation 2 video gamers were treated with a third-person shooter titled “Gungrave”  created by Yasuhiro Nightow (creator of the manga and anime series “Trigun”).    The video game would feature anime style cut scenes but with an intriguing story about a man from the dead who has come back to exact revenge against his former mafia organization and most of all, to get back at his former best friend, who has taken control of the organization known as Millennion.

But as enjoyable as those cut scenes were, many have wondered if there would be a “Gungrave” anime series and sure enough, the following year, MADHOUSE Studios (“Trigun”, “Ninja Scroll”, “Vampire Hunter D”, “Monster”, etc.) created a 26-episode anime series.  And with the success and interest in the series, a second PS2 video game titled “Gungrave: Overdose” was released.

The series would be directed by Toshiyuki Tsuru (“who has worked on “Cowboy Bebop”, “Naruto”, “Great Teacher Onizuka” and “Vision of Escaflowne”), written by Yousuke Kuroda (“Infinite Ryvius”, “Mobile Suit Gundam 00”, “Tenchi Muyou! GXP”, “Trigun”, etc.) and feature  character designs by Masanori Shino (who has worked on anime series such as “Inuyasha”, “Mobile Suit Gundam F91”, “Black Lagoon” and “Banner of the Stars”) and mechanical designs by Masahiro Kimura (“Black Lagoon).  The music for the series was composed by Tsuneo Imahori (involved with series such as “Cowboy Bebop”, “Arjuna”, “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade”, “Trigun” and “Wolf’s Rain”).

Where the video game series focused on Brandon Heat’s revenge on his former friend and organization, the anime series focuses on the friendship between Brandon and his best friend/future nemesis Harry McDowell and how he got involved with Millennion.

The main characters of “Gungrave” are:

Brandon Heat/Beyond the Grave – During his younger years, Brandon was a small-time criminal along with his friend Harry McDowell.   A bit lost in life and tries to make sense of it.  He is very fond of Maria and would do anything for her.  Due to circumstances when he was younger, he and Harry join one of the top mafia organizations known as Millennion and quickly rises the ranks over the years, but despite his success, because he wants to keep Maria out of his trouble, he keeps his distance.  “Beyond the Grave” is the name given Brandon Heat after receiving the necrolyze treatment to revive him courtesy of Dr. T.  Unlike most who receive the necrolyze treatment, Brandon still retains his soul for those he cares about but at the same time, much more deadlier in this form as he exacts his revenge.

Harry McDowell – “Bloody Harry”, the leader of the small-time gang of Desolation Alley, he and Brandon join Millennion.  But for Harry, having so much power starts to take over his ego and will kill anyone to achieve such power.

Maria Asagi – Has always been passionate towards Brandon who was raised by Millennion mafia member Jester.  When Jester was killed, she moved in with the leader of Millennion, a powerful man named Big Daddy.

Mika Asagi – Seen at the beginning of the series (and the primary character of the video game series) and is the daughter of Maria and Big Daddy.

Big Daddy – The leader and founder of Millennion.  Despite being in charge of a mafia organization, he has always been kind towards Maria and also Brandon.

Bear Walken – Big Daddy’s right hand man and one of the major members of Millennion.   Has a daughter named Sherry who is engaged to Harry but at the same time, doesn’t trust Harry but for his daughter’s safety, agrees to side with him.

Bunji Kugashira – An assassin from rival group who ends up becoming a member of Millennion and a friend of Brandon.

Bob Poundmax – One of Harry’s key men (his second “superior”) who is quite intelligent but overweight.

Balladbird Lee – Bob’s best friend and a member of Millennion.

Dr. Tokioka (Dr. T) – The scientist who developed necrolyzation (reviving the dead).

“Gungrave – The Complete Set” features a total of four episodes on seven discs.  Included are:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1: Destroyer in the Dusk
  • EPISODE 2: Young Dogs
  • EPISODE 3: Rain
  • EPISODE 4: Go

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 5 – Millennion
  • EPISODE 6 – Big Daddy
  • EPISODE 7 – 5 Years Later
  • EPISODE 8 – Family

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 9 – Dispute
  • EPISODE 10 – Conflict
  • EPISODE 11 – Heat
  • EPISODE 12 – Kind

DISC 4:

  • EPISODE 13 – Betrayal
  • EPISODE 14 – Die
  • EPISODE 15 – Harry
  • EPISODE 16 – Letter

DISC 5:

  • EPISODE 17 – Mika
  • EPISODE 18 – Grave
  • EPISODE 19 – Superior
  • EPISODE 20 – Brother

DISC 6:

  • EPISODE 21 – Duty
  • EPISODE 22 – Remorse
  • EPISODE 23 – Daughter

DISC 7:

  • EPISODE 24 – Last Bullet
  • EPISODE 25 – Then
  • EPISODE 26 – Dusk of the Destroyers

The series are broken down in several arc’s.  The first arc pretty much focuses on Harry, Brandon and his friends living on the streets and getting into trouble.  Unfortunately, the trouble they get involved is big enough to get them and their friends killed.

The second arc features Harry and Brandon joining Millennion and how they slowly grow in rank and become one of the top people in the organization as they take on the rival organization known as Lightning. Also, the plan of the mafia organizations to use necrolyzation to revive their dead and make them monsters.

The third arc focuses on Harry’s thirst for power and will do whatever it takes to get to the top.

The final arc focusing on what people are familiar from the video games and that is Brandon Heat revived as this killing machine known as “Beyond the Grave” and exacting revenge on those responsible for his death and protecting the people he cares about.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Gungrave” is presented in  16×9 anamorphic widescreen.  One has to remember that “Gungrave” was an anime released back in 2003.  So, anime fans should not expect that uber-vibrant, colorful, digital look as many anime released today.  Also, the anime series is a television series so it is not going to have all the major detail such as an OVA or film.  But for the most part, the anime character designs uses dark edges, while certain scenes feature good artistic backgrounds, many buildings are well detailed.  For the majority of the series, picture quality has what seems like an intentional softness to it.   So, certain scenes are colorful, while other scenes has this white glaze over it (especially the scenes that are focusing on the past).  Of course, those scenes were quite intentional.  But for the most part, the series is well animated.

But this is an awesome MADHOUSE production and when it came out back in 2003, there was no denying of how awesome this anime looked at that time and capturing the amount of emotion and also motion for a television series.

As for audio, I had the opportunity to watch the series in both Japanese and English and for the most part, voice acting is solid for both.  Also, another big plus is with most series, English dubs typically get the 5.1 treatment and the Japanese track in 2.0.  But for “Gungrave – The Complete Series”, the Japanese audio track is also presented in Japanese DTS 5.1.  For the most part, the DTS soundtrack is quite solid but with the release of audio technology, one may find a stereo on all channels more appealing.

The series is pretty much front and center channel driven since its mostly a dialogue driven series for the first four volumes.  But once the major part of the action begins, that is when the soundtrack of the series starts to shine and you do get pretty good surround sound usage.  Also, fans of Tsuneo Imahori’s music, will definitely enjoy what he has to bring to the series.

Subtitles are only in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Gungrave – The Complete Set” comes with “Conceptual Art” (which viewers can use their remote to scroll through different images)  and “Geneon Previews” on each Disc.  Disc 7 comes with a Promo Video Collection.  The promotional video (5:08) is more or less the commercials for the series before it aired on Japanese television.  Commercials also include the TV, DVD and original soundtrack spots.

“Gungrave – The Complete Set” is possibly one of the more exciting, mature and solid anime series that is originally based off a video game.  For the most part, many video game turned to anime have not had a well-told storyline but for “Gungrave”, you really do get an action-packed, mafia storyline about power and corruption but also a little of that twisted scientific logic of bring the dead back alive and them returning as monsters.

What I enjoyed about “Gungrave” the most is that it it slowly built the storyline around Brandon and Harry’s friendship and eventually leading to Brandon’s return as “Beyond the Grave”.  Despite the game having this cool character, the series focuses more on the mafia/yakuza-style of storylines that we typically read from manga or have seen long ago on a series such as “Crying Freeman” without the sex and humor.  This is anime series is dramatic, violent and for the most part, one may even look at the series going for a more “Godfather” style of storyline.

Needless to say, a series by Yasuhiro Nightow brings excitement to fans who loved his previous series “Trigun”.  Once we see Beyond the Grave (Brandon) start to take charge and exact revenge, the series which was already quite enjoyable already gets an extra dose of excitement as the series transforms to another style of anime and is geared to a more violent, action-paced anime series.  And by no means is this anime for the younger folks, although this series doesn’t have the sex and humor of other yakuza/mafia-based anime, it is a violent anime series.

And that is where Nightow’s creativity shines.  From Beyond the Grave’s character, the dramatic moments intensified with Maria and Mika, the transformation of the “Superiors”, the action sequences and also the weapons.  “Gungrave” definitely is an exciting, action-packed final episodes of this awesome series.  But you feel the series character development and mafia storyline pays off, as storyline development of both Brandon and Harry’s characters, their friendship leads to to the final episodes.  The anime series could have gone the cliched storylines on revenge but suffice to say, the ending is not exactly what one may expect and overall, a fresh way to end this complex series.

Last, it is great to see “Gungrave” released by FUNimation Entertainment as a complete set and also an excellent price (less than the price of the first two volumes that were released back in 2005 and cost way less than the box set also released in 2005).

Overall, “Gungrave – The Complete Set” is an enjoyable series with an intriguing storyline, good amount of action and solid animation.   For those who enjoyed the original PS2 game, it was exciting to know that the game would have its own animated series.  Also, exciting to find out afterward that for an anime inspired from a video game, “Gungrave” didn’t suck at all.  Overall, “Gungrave – The Complete Set” is definitely recommended!

 






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